Getting Into Competitive Shooting

By Tom Leatham
Posted in #Skills
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Getting Into Competitive Shooting

October 5th, 2019

6 minute read

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a five-part series on getting into competitive shooting. You can check out the other entries here:

No doubt you’ve seen some incredibly cool pictures, blogs and videos about competitive shooting on the internet, and you naturally want to know how to get into it. Good for you! The competitive shooting sports are one of the best ways to both enjoy your favorite firearms while simultaneously improving your skills.

But beware — competitive shooting is fun and can be very addicting! It ought to come with a surgeon general’s warning. 

Shooting competition is both challenging and rewarding. Believe me, once you get going, you will become hooked. And once hooked you are going to want to do it all the time. You will likely want to branch off into other disciplines and categories of shooting sports.

It’s a great adventure to begin, but now that you’ve decided you want to give the competitive shooting sports a try, how exactly should you start?

Well, before you whip out your credit card and buy everything you can find on the internet, let’s see if I can save you from some of the mistakes I’ve made on my journey.

Competitive shooting will only make you a better shooter, but be sure to choose disciplines wisely when first starting.

You Are Here

Before I get into the how to get started, why do it in the first place? The bigger question may be, “What is there to gain?”

To answer briefly, you will become competent and confident. Increased skill leads you to the former and then the latter. Probably the best part of competition shooting is learning how to operate a firearm safely in a pressure-filled environment. That’s got to be a good situation for anyone who is interested in shooting, right?

Let me tell you a little about how it all worked for me.

Gunaholics Anonymous

Hey everyone, my name is Tommy and I’m a gunaholic.

I grew up in a shooting family, and a competitive one at that. I’ve been around guns since the day I was born. I have both an innate curiosity and respect for firearms.

I’ve been shooting and competing the majority of my life and I have figured out a few things about myself and my shooting interests:

  • I much prefer some shooting sports over others
  • Certain sports I thought I would absolutely love I turned out not to care for, and subsequently wasted a ton of time and money
  • The sports I prefer are not always those that come easiest to me, and vice versa

As easy as I wish it were, there are several things to consider before jumping in feet first (which I will cover in subsequent articles). The opportunities I’ve been privileged to experience have taught me which shooting sports I like and don’t like, and which ones I felt were worth the effort to pursue. Hopefully, I can prevent you from going down the wrong rabbit hole early on, and help make the experience much more enjoyable. In a nutshell, here are the first five steps I believe you should take:

  1. Figure out which firearm(s) and sport(s) interest you most and determine which events are a good match for you
  2. Find local clubs that hold those matches, and learn how to get into the local community
  3. Check out the events/matches in person, and know what to look for
  4. Understand the importance of attending match training courses/beginner matches
  5. Develop your shooting “kit,” gear and supplies
You should determine what type of guns you like, as this will help you determine the right types of competitive shooting for you. The M1A is shown here at Camp Perry.

Gun Gravitation

To start with, what firearm type or model are you gravitating toward?

You may want to begin with the firearms you already have access to (or are interested in acquiring). This makes for an easier entry, as you at least won’t have to acquire a new gun.

If you have an M1A and love plinking steel at the local range, it’s a no-brainer to look into longer distance target shooting.

If you have an XD-M that you enjoy shooting on camping trips, you may want to start investigating the world of handgun matches.

So, time to make some decisions.

So Little Time

Since there is no shortage of shooting sports, the first step is to figure out what type interests you the most. The list of competitive gun games is long. There are traditional shooting disciplines based solely on precision. There are also more-active options that have you moving, shooting and reloading while under time. It can be a bit daunting just to figure out what you want to try first, as the list is long. In alphabetical order, here are some of the more-popular shooting sports and organizations.

If you like handguns, you should lean toward those disciplines that feature it. If you like all types, you have even more options.


  • Action Shooting – IDPA, ICORE, NRA Action Pistol, Steel Challenge (SCSA), USPSA
  • Cowboy Shooting – SASS, Mounted Shooting
  • Precision – NRA Collegiate Pistol, NRA Pistol, NRA National Police Championship
  • Silhouette – IHMSA, NRA


  • Action – USPSA (multi-gun)
  • Bench Rest – NBRSA
  • Cowboy – NRA Cowboy Lever Action Silhouette
  • Muzzleloading – MLAIC, NRA
  • Position – ISSF
  • Precision – NRA Collegiate Rifle, NRA Extreme Long Range, NRA High Power Rifle, NRA Junior Airgun, NRA Smallbore Rifle (junior, too), Precision Rifle Series (PRS)
  • Silhouette – NRA


  • Action – USPSA (multi-gun)
  • Skeet – NSSA, SCTP
  • Sporting Clays – NSCA, SCTP
  • Trap – ATA, SCTP

And of course, once you get good at your new sport, the International Olympic Committee observes several rifle, shotgun and pistol sports. #OlympicShooting

The time you spend on the range and during competition will help hone your shooting skills and confidence.

Personally, I like pistols. And rifles. Oh yeah, and shotguns. But I’m most likely to be found shooting pistols and carbines at action shooting-type events. But you have to figure out which sport sound most interesting to you.

Video Vibes

Now that you’ve narrowed down the firearm and have a better idea of the variety of shooting disciplines, it’s time to do a little more research. Talk to friends, do some online searching and watch a video or two (or 22!).

What [insert firearm of choice] competition videos do you enjoy watching the most?

Are there specific events you enjoy watching, others you skip over, or specific competitors you like to follow? If you have some favorites, these are logically a good place to start. All shooting sports have different sub genres, and all have a learning curve — whether you are already an ace shot or just learning the ropes.

There are learning curves in all of the shooting sports, no matter your previous skill levels.

Don’t Be Scared

The perceived difficulty of a shooting sport should not prevent you from trying it out. Remember, there will be different levels (of both shooters and events) within any sport. If you wanted to take up skiing, you wouldn’t choose the double black diamond slope your first time out. Similarly, if you like long-range rifle shooting, there are a lot of different types of matches to try that are not extreme long-range courses of fire. Find the broad areas that interest you, and then you can discover the more-specific types of competitions that suit you to a tee.

And so your competition adventure begins…Make Ready.

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Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles and videos are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

Product prices mentioned in articles and videos are current as of the date of publication.

Tom Leatham

Tom Leatham

Tom is a young man with a hankering for the fun and finer stuff in life. He grew up in a home filled with lots of interesting “toys”; from guns, bicycles and RC cars, to motorcycles, jet skis and all the latest video games. He has no accolades of his own to brag about; no world championship trophies, gold medals or plaques on the wall, but don’t underestimate him in a game of chess. He makes up for his lack of achievements with his dashing good looks, mountains of adoring fans, and of course, his world-class pog collection. When he’s not making jokes that are falling flat, he enjoys shooting just for the sheer fun of it, collecting cool gear, and being a know-it-all. He supports his passions and beautiful family by helping out at (shameless plug), purveyor of some of the coolest stuff on the planet! Oh, and his dad is…well – you probably already guessed.

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